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I was right? I was right!

This is a RARE occurrence, so I should probably savor it. Who knows when it will happen again?

Okay, so I know some of you reading this page don’t give a flip about American Idol. But I must discuss the show last night, if only briefly, simply because it was such a spectacle. Oh.My.God. From the beginning, with the Barry Manilow song in the matching white outfits to the very end, when Taylor was lost in the pyrotechnics and you couldn’t even see him….it was so completely over the top, occasionally ridiculous and often so unintentionally funny that at times it felt like a national acid trip. I mean, what was Meatloaf doing there? And was HE on an acid trip? And what do the producers have against Katherine: they paired her with Meatloaf, who seemed really out of it to me, plus gave her the crappy original song AND then put her in a dress she could barely move around in for the very end, at which point she lost. I mean, honestly. Seems kind of mean, doesn’t it?

Other highlights of the show included:

*Toni Braxton, who you could not hear—but maybe that was my TV?—pretty much grinding on Taylor
*Mary J. Blige stealing the entire show out from under Elliott, who was supposed to be dueting with her but could only stand off to the side with the rest of us and be blown away
*Some poor guy being put up to singing in front of a NATIONWIDE audience, BADLY, just so Clay Aiken could emerge, Oz-like, from behind a curtain with a new haircut
*and, the best part of ALL, Prince showing up for no apparent reason at the very end, doing an incredible performance, and then just walking offstage without even acknowledging Ryan Seacrest. It was just like that SNL skit with Maya Rudolph: where’s Prince? He’s gone! (My husband’s theory was that they wanted Prince to duet with one of the Idols and he said no, but they had him come on anyway, because he’s…Prince. Although I wouldn’t say he’s actually a good fit for the average Idol audience. What did all the grandmothers watching think?)

Anyway. Suffice to say, I have saved the show on my Tivo, if only because I think it will soon become some sort of cultural artifact. Therefore, I must study it, with repeated viewings, when all my friends are over drinking beer. It’s practically required.

And now, Idol is over for another year. In fact, most of my shows have been wrapping up, which is a good thing, because I have a TON of good books to read. Sitting on my bedside table, just waiting for me, is King Dork by Frank Portman, which I have heard raves about and can’t wait to start. But right now, I am reading Anne Tyler’s newest book, Digging to America. Now, with all the traveling I was doing in the last week, I needed something kind of fluffy to read, so I picked up a book I’d been sent by the paper. It was British chick-lit, with a kicky cover and a cute title. I’m not going to say what it was here because I just don’t need the bad karma, but I will say this: it represented everything I can’t stand about derivative, badly written chick-lit copycats. When chick-lit is done right (see Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Suzanne Finnamore) I love nothing more. But this book was like a xerox of a xerox of one of those books, so watered down, the plot sloppy, seemingly totally unedited, with an ending that just plopped into your lap like a dead bird falling out of the sky, with no finesse whatsoever. Why did I stick with it to the end? Maybe for the same reason I watched the whole Idol finale, I’m a sucker. But whatever. The point is, I put this book down, sighed, and then reached for Anne Tyler. Flipped it open to Chapter One, paragraph one. Which reads:

“At eight o’clock in the evening, the Baltimore airport was nearly deserted. The wide gray corridors were empty, and the newstands were dark, and the coffee shops were closed. Most of the gates had admitted their last flights. Their signboards were blank and their rows of vinyl chairs unoccupied and ghostly.”

Yes, it’s just a description of an airport terminal. And it’s only four sentences. But in those four sentences, Anne Tyler created more of a story, a setting, a feeling, than this other book did in 400 pages. That’s why she’s Anne Tyler, and I can’t even remember the name of the person who wrote the other book. It’s like last night, when you’re watching the Idols sing and thinking, “You know, they’re not bad,” and then someone like Mary J. Blige or Prince comes out, and you think, “Oh, okay. THIS is the real deal. This is what it takes.” In other words, step back. Because this is how the pros do it.

And on one last final note (music pun!) I’ll be at the Borders on Six Forks Road in Raleigh tonight at 7pm for my last signing of Just Listen (at least for a little while). Come out if you can!

have a great day, everyone!
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